Radar Images of Mount Pinatubo
6 of 77

Radar Images of Mount Pinatubo

September 7, 2009
These are color composite radar images showing the area around Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines. The images were acquired by the Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C/X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SIR-C/X-SAR) aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour on April 14, 1994 (left image) and October 5, 1994 (right image). The images are centered at about 15 degrees north latitude and 120.5 degrees east longitude. Both images were obtained with the same viewing geometry. The color composites were made by displaying the L-Band (horizontally transmitted and received) in red; the L-Band (horizontally transmitted and vertically received) in green; and the C-Band (horizontally transmitted and vertically received) in blue. The area shown is approximately 40 by 65 kilometers (25 by 40 miles). The main volcanic crater on Mount Pinatubo produced by the June 1991 eruptions and the steep slopes on the upper flanks of the volcano are easily seen in these images. Red on the high slopes shows the distribution of the ash deposited during the 1991 eruption, which appears red because of the low cross-polarized radar returns at C and L Bands. The dark drainage's radiating away from the summit are smooth mud flows, which even three years after the eruption continue to flood the river valleys after heavy rain. Comparing the two images shows that significant changes have occurred in the intervening five months along the Pasig-Potero rivers (the dark area in the lower right of the images). Mud flows, called "lahars", that occurred during the 1994 monsoon season filled the river valleys, allowing the lahars to spread over the surrounding countryside. Three weeks before the second image was obtained, devastating lahars more than doubled the area affected in the Pasig-Potero rivers, which is clearly visible as the increase in dark area on the lower right of the images. Migration of deposition to the east (right) has affected many communities. Newly affected areas included the community of Bacolor, Pampanga, where thousands of homes were buried in meters of hot mud and rock as 80,000 people fled the lahar-stricken area. The 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption is well known for its near-global effects on the atmosphere and short-term climate due to the large amount of sulfur dioxide that was injected into the upper atmosphere. Locally, however, the effects will most likely continue to impact surrounding areas for as long as the next 10 to 15 years. Mud flows, quite certainly, will continue to pose severe hazards to adjacent areas. Radar observations like those obtained by SIR-C/X-SAR will play a key role in monitoring these changes because of the radar's ability to see daylight or darkness and even in the worst weather conditions. Radar imaging will be particularly useful during the monsoon season, when the lahars form. Frequent imaging of these lahar fields will allow scientists to better predict when they are likely to begin flowing again and which communities might be at risk. Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C/X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SIR-C/X-SAR) is part of NASA's Mission to Planet Earth. (P-44729)

comments powered by Disqus